Last week, the National Statistical Office released the Annual Report of its Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), covering the period between July 2019 and June 2020. This period included the second quarter of the calendar year 2020, when the Indian economy was reeling from a stringent lockdown meant to contain the spread of Covid-19. Yet the difficulties that the pandemic and consequent lockdown imposed upon the broader Indian workforce did not appear, at first glance, to be adequately reflected in the PLFS. The headline that was widely reported was that the 2019-20 PLFS overall saw a reduction, rather than an increase, in unemployment, in that it fell from 5.8 per cent in 2018-19 to 4.8 per cent in 2019-20 (both years defined as being from July to June). It is worth noting that in general unemployment rates in subsistence conditions, as in much of India, do not always make sense. At low levels of income, unemployment is a luxury — people who need a daily wage to survive cannot spend a long time out of, or looking for, work. Even so, however, the unemployment numbers deserve closer scrutiny in order to ensure that the PLFS itself retains usefulness in its picture of the economy.
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First Published: Wed, July 28 2021. 22:52 IST